c. 2006 Religion News Service
(UNDATED) At just 22 years old, Justin Cannon is the founder of RainbowChristians.com, perhaps the first and only gay Christian dating Web site.
As a college student, Cannon struggled with self-hate as he tried to reconcile his homosexuality with his Christian beliefs. In 2005, he launched TruthSetsFree.net, an informational site about homosexuality and Christianity. RainbowChristians came later that year.
Now an Episcopal seminary student at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif., Cannon talked about his own frustrations with online dating, finding acceptance within the church and his belief in the existence of same-sex romantic love in the Bible.
Q: Why create a religious gay Web site?
A: I knew there was a market for a gay Christian dating site because over the past two years, I have met hundreds of gay Christians and there really wasn’t any dating service online that catered to their needs. There are gay dating sites, there are Christian dating sites, but none for gay Christians.
Q: Is RainbowChristians a result of your own experiences as an online dater?
A: I have browsed Internet dating sites looking for people to date. I found them to be shallow. A lot of sites tend to be shallow. And Christian dating sites force us to choose “male seeking female” or “female seeking male.” I realized it was time to create an alternative for gay Christians.
Q: So what has been the response to the site?
A: Most of the responses have been from gay Christians. It’s been, “We’ve been waiting for this. I’ve been wondering when something like this would happen.”
Q: What do you think of the notion that people on dating Web sites are people who just can’t get dates on their own?
A: (Laughs) I’ve never heard that. But for gay Christians, there’s a difficulty in finding other gay Christians. In gay circles, we’re ostracized. In Christian circles, we’re ostracized. The gay Christians I know are not desperate. You can call us desperate in the sense of wanting to find other gay Christians.
Q: You are a Christian _ a seminarian, in fact _ as well as gay. What do you say to people who see a contradiction there?
A: I send them to my Truthsetsfree.net Web site.
Q: That’s a good plug.
A: (Laughs) People arrive at that contradiction from different perspectives. I have personally found that the Bible does not put down any loving, monogamous relationship.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” There’s no distinction between gay and straight. … I believe there’s a place at the table for everyone.
Q: What troubles you about the Christian response to homosexuality?
A: I’ve met too many gay people who’ve withdrawn from the church. I’ve read too many stories of parents who’ve read suicide notes from their children who couldn’t find a place to belong. To me, (the church) is to address and bring comfort to people. We’re here, we’re Christians and there’s just as much a place for us as anyone else.
Q: Do you believe Christians’ attitudes toward gays have been changing?
A: Definitely. I’m an optimist, so I have to see hope. In 2003, the Episcopal Church ordained the first gay bishop. More and more people are tackling the idea of ordaining gay priests. I think they are moving in a positive direction. One day those people who use the Bible to condemn gays will feel just as shameful as those who used the Bible to justify slavery.
Q: Do you believe gay Christians will ever find full acceptance within the church?
A: That’s a difficult question to answer because the church is so large. I don’t believe women have found full acceptance. I think we will continue to struggle as we do with sexism, racism and all other prejudices.
Q: On the Web site, you quote a Bible passage of Ruth speaking to Naomi: “Entreat me not to leave you or to return from following you, for where you go I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God; where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if even death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-18). What special meaning does that passage have for you?
A: Many heterosexual couples use that verse in weddings to express their love for each other. I find it kind of ironic that they cite that verse and at the same time decry gay marriages when that verse was originally an expression of love between two women.
Q: So do you believe they had a homosexual relationship?
A: Not necessarily something sexual; there’s nothing in Scripture about that. But I think there’s a special, romantic love they shared.
Q: Are you dating anyone?
A: I don’t have a boyfriend right now. I am open to it in God’s time. But I am on my dating site.
KRE/PH END CHO
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